Thu, Jul 29, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Canada warns Iran after agent cleared of murder charge

SEEKING JUSTICE The foreign ministry said it would step up pressure after an Iranian-Canadian photographer's accused murder was acquitted

AP , Montreal

Canada warned on Tuesday it would ratchet up pressure on Iran over the killing of a jailed Iranian-Canadian photographer, and called on Tehran to respect international human rights norms.

But Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew's promise of action fell far short of measures demanded by the press, his opposition counterpart and the family of Zahra Kazemi, who died while in Iranian custody last year.

The issue exploded into a new diplomatic row after a security agent was acquitted in Iran on Saturday of the photographer's murder.

"We are going to work with our partners across the world, in the European Union and in the United Nations to increase the pressure on Iran," Pettigrew told reporters in Montreal.

"Iran must accept its responsibilities in line with its own laws, but also in line with the UN Declaration of Human Rights," Pettigrew said in his first public comments on the issue since Mohammad Reza Aghdam Ahmadi, 42, was acquitted.

Kazemi, 54, a freelance photographer with dual nationality, died in July last year from a brain hemorrhage from a blow to her skull after her arrest for taking photos outside Tehran's notorious Evin prison. The judiciary initially claimed Kazemi died of a stroke, but a government report later revealed she had been struck by a blunt object. Her mother says Kazemi's body showed evidence of torture in several places, including broken bones.

Kazemi's family has demanded justice, and charged the Canadian government with doing little to call Tehran to account.

"I'm questioning myself on the honest intention of the Canadian government," Kazemi's son, Stephan Hachemi, said on Tuesday. "It's a shame."

The chief Conservative Party spokesman for foreign affairs, Stockwell Day, accused Pettigrew of "failing to take immediate and decisive action."

Three UN human rights experts earlier on Tuesday said they were profoundly concerned at the acquittal verdict. The UN special rapporteurs on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, on the independence of judges and lawyers, and on torture expressed "their profound concern regarding the unanswered questions which have resulted from the acquittal of an Iranian intelligence officer on 24 July after a two-day trial."

The experts, Ambeyi Ligabo, Leandro Despouy and Theo van Boven respectively, said in a statement that Iranian "authorities are favoring a climate of impunity for law enforcement officials and setting the ground for the recurrence of similar human rights violations in the future."

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